Longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek, adored by generations of trivia mavens who instinctively shout out questions to answers, died Sunday after a battle with cancer. He was 80.
The official “Jeopardy!” Twitter account confirmed the news, adding that he was surrounded by friends and family as he died at home in the early morning.
“Jeopardy!” executive producer Mike Richards described Trebek’s death as an “enormous loss” for the show’s crew in a statement Sunday. The producer said it was an incredible honor to work beside Trebek in the past year and a half as the host continued to work on the show despite his diagnosis.
“His belief in the importance of the show and his willingness to push himself to perform at the highest level was the most inspiring demonstration of courage I have ever seen,” Richards said. “His constant desire to learn, his kindness and his professionalism will be with all of us forever.”
The beloved host continued to film episodes during his cancer treatments and shared emotional moments with fans and contestants.
Albert Thakur, who won $20,400 in Thursday’s episode, was moved to tears as he shared that he used to watch “Jeopardy!” with his grandfather and the impact the show made on his life.
“You know, here’s a true story, man. I grew up, I learned English because of you,” Thakur told Trebek during a post-show conversation. “And so, my grandfather, who raised me — I’m gonna get tears right now — I used to sit on his lap and watch you every day, so it’s a pretty special moment for me, man.”
Thakur shared a short poem by Rainer Maria Rilke about death to his Twitter account following the news of Trebek’s death, adding that he was “overwhelmed with emotion.”
“Jeopardy!” will continue to air episodes hosted by Trebek, who was last in studio on Oct. 29, through Christmas Day, the show said Sunday. There are currently no plans for announcing a new host.
Trebek stunned fans of the high-minded game show last year, announcing he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer.
Trebek said in a video posted to YouTube he would try to finish out this season of “Jeopardy!” despite being diagnosed with a disease that is expected to be diagnosed in 56,700 Americans this year.
Days after the announcement, Trebek addressed “Jeopardy!” fans again, telling them he was overwhelmed by the support he had received.
“Hi everyone, I just want to take a few moments to say thanks to the — believe it or not — hundreds of thousands of people who have sent in tweets, texts, emails, cards and letters wishing me well following my recent health announcement,” Trebek said.
“Now obviously, I won’t be able to respond to all of you individually, but I did want you to know that I do read everything I receive and I am thankful for the kind words, the prayers and the advice you have offered, and I’m extremely touched by the warmth you have expressed in your comments to me.”
The iconic game show host added, “I’m a lucky guy.”
Trebek would give updates to fans about his treatment, offering his audience good news through periodic video updates posted to the “Jeopardy!” social media accounts. But in a New York Times interview in July ahead of his memoir’s release, Trebek was candid about the toll the disease took on him.
The game show host told the Times that if his course of treatment at the time didn’t work, he planned on stopping treatment altogether.
“Yesterday morning my wife came to me and said, ‘How are you feeling?’ And I said, ‘I feel like I want to die.’ It was that bad,” he told the Times. “There comes a time where you have to make a decision as to whether you want to continue with such a low quality of life, or whether you want to just ease yourself into the next level. It doesn’t bother me in the least.”
A day earlier, he told fans his treatment was going well and that he was hopeful they would soon be able to film new episodes of “Jeopardy!” in a studio again. Trebek said his “numbers are good” and that he was feeling great.
Trebek had been the face of “Jeopardy!” since 1984. In October 2018, Trebek renewed his contract with Sony Pictures Television to continue as host of the quiz show through 2022.
He’s best known for his calm demeanor on the show and gentle-yet-cutting manner in which he tells contestants they’ve answered incorrectly.
Trebek regularly tells players, “No, I’m sorry. We were looking for …” or will pick out one small syllable of mispronunciation that will render a question incorrect, making the difference of plus or minus $200 to $2,000.
Trebek has won six daytime Emmy Awards and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2011.